The Story of William Lafayette Ledford and James Edward Ledford

Researched and composed by Joyce Gaston Reece

Used with permission from the gggrandchildren of W.L. Ledford

David R. Carroll and Dorris Prevou

{Quotes are excerpts from a narrative written by Rebecca Dulcina Ledford, circa 1946.}



            “Just over the North Carolina Tennessee line, thirty five miles from the Copper Basin of Ducktown and Copperhill, my father first saw the light of day, 1846.  The son of a farmer and small landowner.  His home was a log cabin big house and lean to daubed with mud to fill the cracks, stick and clay chimney.  A two room cabin in a small land plot of about 5 or 6 acres.”

            William Lafayette Ledford’s story is the epitome of the “Great American Success Story”.  W.L. was born April 23, 1846 in North Carolina.  His mother was the daughter of Jacob B. Stewart & Mary Ann Edwards.  W.L.’s brother is James E. Ledford, born January 1, 1848.

“At the age of about 7 his father died, leaving a widow and one younger brother.  …W.L. or Fayette and Jim Ledford who, with their mother went to the nearby mining town for better opportunities to make their home there at Ducktown, Tennessee.  These boys grew up around the mines to manhood, became miners in the Ducktown mines for the support of themselves and their mother…”

            Little is known about the youth of W.L. and Jim.  We know their father likely died circa 1851.  It is said they went to work in the copper mines at a very early age but it is obvious that they did have some education.  Their lives seem to have been determined by the fluctuations of the copper mining industry in the Copper Basin. 

The two brothers are mentioned 3 times in “Ducktown Back in Raht’s Time” by R.E. Barclay.  On page 156 & 157 is printed an anonymous poem about mining 1865-1878.  Not only does this poem mention names familiar to the Ledford family but mentions W.L. (Mug) and Jim, too. 

“There is Mug Ledford contrary to rule

He carried off rations and killed his old mule

And there is Jim Ledford, a brother to Mug

Got twenty-five dollars to stop up his jug”


(Jim was in the saloon business later on in Butte, MO.)



            W.L. enlisted in the Union Army in Indiana in 1864.  He was a private in Company “B”, of the 18th Indiana Infantry Volunteers on July 2, 1864.  He was discharged in Georgia, August 28, 1865.  He applied for a pension in Butte City, Silver Bow County, Montana on September 12, 1890 but was denied.  His second wife filed for widow’s pension on October 6, 1916 and received it until her death in 1940.

            William L. Ledford married Mary Jane Galloway in 1866.  Mary Jane was the daughter of Rev. John Colby Galloway and Rebecca Moore.  This branch of the Galloway family originated in old Buncombe and Macon County’s in North Carolina to move into north Georgia by 1860.  By 1870 they had moved into Bradley County, Tennessee where he was a circuit riding minister of the gospel in both Polk and Bradley Co’s. 

            …preaching the Bible to the mountain folks carrying his Bible and belongings in his saddle pockets astride horse back.”

Mary Jane died in Leadville, Colorado on April 15, 1884.

            James E. Ledford, W.L.’s brother, did not see action during the Civil War, staying home to care for their mother.  He was married to Matilda Brown on May 27, 1866 in Fannin County, Georgia.  She was the daughter of John W. & Nancy Brown of the Union County, Georgia area.  James & Matilda’s children are Myra, Benjamin & John.  James later has a stepdaughter named Maude Moore.


            Ducktown Back in Raht’s  Time on page 174 of it tells how W.L. had a small part in a  February, 1876, Polk County, Tennessee Chancery Court case.  He was called upon to give a deposition in one of the largest Chancery Court cases that Polk County has ever seen.  The Union Consolidated Mining Company brought suit against J.E. Raht, John Thomas and Charles Raht for $1,200,000.00 in February, 1876 in New York City.  The case was heard, at least partially, in Benton, TN.  The case went on for 21 months after the original filing. The judge was Chancellor W.F. Cooper.  One of the attorney’s was P.B. Mayfield who was later one of the attorney’s involved in W.L. Ledford’s estate proceeding.  The case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court where Chancellor Cooper had been appointed a judge.  Chancellor Cooper was not allowed to sit on the bench when this case was appealed since he had first heard it in Polk County.  East Tennessee’s Great Lawsuit did not reach the state supreme court until the fall of 1879.  During this interim the whole future of both Ducktown and the Union Consolidated Mining Company had gone into total eclipse.  The mines had been closed and abandoned, the company had gone into bankruptcy and J.E. Raht had passed away.  Despite these misfortunes and tragedies, the pending lawsuit was carried to the higher court and there fought out as bitterly and as exhaustively as though closed mines, failure and death were but momentary diversions in a court of eternal session.” (Ducktown Back in Raht’s Time by R.E. Barclay)         

            In 1878 a downturn in the mining industry had many of the Copper Basin residents scrambling for other means of making a living.  We suspect that James may have gone into business since the poem mentions “And there is Jim Ledford, a brother to Mug,  Got twenty-five dollars to stop up his jug” .

W.L. moved to Bradley County

My father continued on at the mines and soon had a small brood to support.  After the birth of his fifth child (about 1876), he had about made up his mind for a change.  So tried farming one year thinking to make a better living for his growing family but soon gave that up returning to Ducktown from Bradley Co., Tennessee where he was a share cropper that year on the Beeeler Farm in Tasso, (Bradley County), Tennessee.  Again he went into the mines as a miner digging copper ore.”

“About the year 1876 there was a lot of talk going on about a silver boom in a mining town, Leadville, Colorado.  The news and talk interested my father and his brother Jim, his uncles and kinfolks.  So they had many meetings among themselves and at last a band of them decided it would not be a bad move for all of them, they had nothing to loose – all to gain in that far away land that was making rich men out of poor ones, overnite sometimes and where H.A.W. Tabor became famous with his Little Pittsburg mine…  So they consulted among themselves and the older kin and so made up their mind for the adventure to the Rockies.”

This is where we first begin to see traces of Joseph T. Stewart and Burgess Alonzo (B.A.) Edwards who both play a large part in the lives of both W.L. and Jim Ledford.  Joseph T. Stewart (J.T.) is the youngest son of Jacob B. and Mary Ann Edwards/Stewart and brother to W.L. and Jim’s unknown mother.  (W.L. later leaves a legacy to “Aunt Anna Green” who is identified as Mary Ann Stewart or Mrs. John Green and a sister to J.T. Stewart.)  Joseph T. Stewart married the daughter of James Witt.  From other stanza’s of the poem from “Ducktown Back in Raht’s Time:

There is Jim Witt at the head of the store,

Gives bread to the rich as well as the poor,

When Cornwall and Stevens ran away in the night,

Jim kept his position and came out all right.”


“And there is Joe Stuart a kinsman of Witt,

Took lots in the store and owes for it yet.” 


In late 1877 or spring of 1878 the two Ledford brothers, Joseph Stewart  and other kinsmen, along with their families left for Leadville, Colorado.  None had ever been out of the state of Tennessee before, only a few who had been in the Union Army up North, so they agreed to pool all their possessions – stock and provisions and money and make the trip overland by covered wagon route.  So they started the trip from Ducktown, Tennessee for the long perilous trip across the plains to the mining town of Leadville, Colorado high in the Rockies to seek a fortune in silver there or better wage and opportunities for themselves and family, wages were good and high and work was plentiful and money easy to get.  So after long months of adventure and hardships on the way, days of weariness and homesickness, nearly beyond endurance they plodded on, never giving up that of the goal they were seeking.  Finally landing at Canyon City, Colorado without loosing any member of their family but loss of some stock and provisions (were) running low.  So some decided to stay awhile there and recuperate and rest, replenish their stock and money for the onward trip to Leadville.”

During this stop in Canyon City, Colorado, W.L. and Mary Jane had a daughter, Caroline. 

“So at last with all ready again he landed at Leadville, Colorado with wife and six children, thus for a new child had been born at Canyon City, Colorado to add to the family of Ledford’s.” 

“At Leadville, Colorado father settled on Capitol Hill in a little white cottage and settled his family and then got a job on the police force of that city and later became (police) chief.  He was a (man of) large stature being over 6 feet and weighing 200 lbs or more of brawn and muscle, he knew no fear of man.”

There is no 1890 census but both W.L. and Jim are found in the Leadville City Directories in several different years in the 1880’s . 

In April, 1884 W.L.’s wife Mary Jane Galloway/Ledford passed away.  Being a widower with several children he was forced to ‘farm out’ four of his younger daughters.  Louella & Ida were the eldest so was likely allowed to stay to care for the household.  Julia and Pearl, born after their arrival in Leadville were placed with the widow of a Baptist minister in Denver, named Mrs. Lamb.  Rebecca Dulcina and a sister, possibly Caroline  were placed in the “Holy Name” Convent.  A catholic organization in Denver.  Son’s, Thomas and John E. were allowed to stay with their father.

“There we lived until mother died and was buried there …far from home and (her) native land (of) Tennessee.”

 In the early1890’s W.L. moved the family north to Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana.  This move would prove to be the most provident thing he would ever do.  He soon re-married to Catherine Erwin/Hodges.  Catherine was the widow of William Hodges  She had two children, Edward Erwin and May Hellen, W.L.’s child. 

James had also lost his wife.  He was remarried about 1890 to widow, Belle Moore, the daughter of Hamilton & Catherine Carey.  Hamilton Carey was a shoemaker from New York who had moved his family to Idaho and later to Montana.  James is living in Idaho Falls in 1900.  Living with him is Belle, Maude Moore (Belle’s daughter) and William Stewart who is bartender in James’ Saloon.  William is likely the son of Alice Brown/Stuart (Matilda’s sister) since he is listed as nephew, age 28. 

W.L. was in Butte by 1890 since he was enumerated on the Veteran’s Schedule, Page 2, number 15 in the 7th ward of Butte.

“Father later heard and read of the opportunity at Butte in the Copper Mines that Marcus Daly had discovered the richest copper mines and again men were getting fabulously rich in mines overnight.  So again father made the decision to go to Butte, Montana, having failed to find the Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow in Leadville, Colorado.  So,  in the latter part of 1880’s  he landed in Denver, Colorado.   He took his 2 sons, small then, to Butte with him.  There he began again to mine for his living in the Copper Mines under the earth some thousands of feet and then again to the police force.  Later to the mines again, getting hurt in the mines unable to work as a miner again, thru injury after months in bed with a back injury he sent for sister and I at the convent at Denver.

We came on to Butte and there I saw my father again after six years being away.  I did not remember him, I was only 5 years when he left me at Denver, now I was going on 13 years, quite a big girl.  Then father eventually recovered and then the task of job hunting began for he had been ill many months and debts and obligations had piled up on him and so he started out to find a job as ore checker – time keeper or similar job about the mines there in Butte.  While on his way to a mine in quest of a job, he happened across this water running from the Anaconda and St. Lawrence Mines down a Gulch to Silver Bow Creek.  So he sat down by that branch and rested and there he conceived an idea or a dream of something in that water brought back memories of things to him,  he did not go on further to seek the job but became obsessed with some idea.  So he kept after it and talked it in his family but none of them had any faith in his idea because he would now keep it a secret to them.  So he sought Marcus Daily and then he personally got a lease on that water from the mines for 3 years duration, as was the custom then, 50 years ago.  After the lease was signed and sealed he began to lay out the ground, some many yards up and down the hill just below the mines Anaconda and St Lawrence at Gaylord and Broad St., Butte, Montana.  Now, this lease had to be ‘just so’ or else it could be broken, so he was restricted to just so much ground each way – no more no less so that he built his plant and began making metallic copper cement by his method unknown then to the Copper Companies or Marcus Daly the owner of these famous copper mines then.  (He) made this copper by his process with tin cans and scrap iron and made it a commercially valuable product and out of it he acquired a good size fortune for his self after paying the company a 25% royalty on each dollar he made and became a very rich man out of the process.”

            After 3 years the lease was up he offered to reverse the royalty taking the 25 per cent and paying them the 75 percent he made for himself but they took over his plant (in) 1896 at the expiration of his lease and greatly enlarged the plant he built and continued to make copper cement by the same process and continued on now these past 50 years at the rate of $6,000,000.00 annually at their plant at the Meaderville where they removed it and piped the water there where they continued to make this copper at present day.”






            Mention was made several times in this volume of the recovery of copper from mine water at Ducktown and in Chapter 10 is a description by a visiting committee of the Union Consolidated Mining Company in May 1860, telling how this was accomplished.  Neither the chemistry nor the method of recovery by this process was discovered at Ducktown.  For instance, the Mining Magazine of September, 1854 contained an article on cupreous water by a correspondent of the London Mining Journal.  In this article it is stated that the metallic copper in water adheres to iron, if the iron is not rusty and that to prevent the copper water from injuring mining machinery that comes into contact with the water, sheets of scraps of iron should be placed in the cisterns and bottoms of the shafts.  The article further revealed that during the working of the Ovoca Mines in Ireland nearly 16,000 pounds of copper was obtained by the method in the short space of seven years…..

            Although the precipitation process was an old story even before the Ducktown mines were discovered and was then practiced here for nearly a quarter of a century after the mines were opened the method was apparently not generally known among the copper miners in some of our western states as late as the 1880’s.  For instance, a Ducktown miner, W.L. Ledford, known locally as “Mug” and “Fate”, migrated westward after the shut-down in 1878 and through his knowledge of the precipitation process was able to make a fortune.  Ledford noticed one day that water from the Butte, Montana, mines were he was employed was depositing a heavy coating of metallic copper on a pile of tin cans over which the water was running.  Realizing at once what was taking place, the crafty miner from Tennessee moved into action.  With all the blandness of a man buying the Rocky Mountains, Ledford requested and received for a nominal sum the right to utilize for two years the mine waters that were running merrily down the hill.  He then began erecting and placing scrap iron in a system of long crude troughs.  With these preparations completed he diverted the water into the troughs and waited.

            In due course the water was drained off and the queer fellow was seen to get down in the troughs and begin sweeping the iron with a stiff broom.  He was not scrubbing the iron as some probably thought.  The full significance of what was taking place became apparent when Ledford began shoveling up hugh quantities of sludge containing finely grained metallic copper.  When this most pleasant chore was finished the water was again turned into the troughs.  This routine went on for over a year, despite the fact that the mining company made vigorous but vain attempts to have the lease declared null and void.  Upon expiration of the lease the company took up the process while “Mug” Ledford retraced his steps to Tennessee with some $90,000.00 to $100,000.00 which he had cleared on his unique enterprise.

            The foregoing is another old story, one that was and still is familiar to older native citizens of both Bradley and Polk counties.  But what makes it unusual is in that credit seems to be given in certain circles to Ledford for discovering the precipitation process and to Butte for being the place where it was first practiced.

            For some additional information on W.L. Ledford, witness the following excerpts taken from a Special Illustrated Trade Edition of the Cleveland (Tennessee) Journal, published in December, 1900:  ‘Capt. W.L. Ledford, the subject of this sketch, was born in Cherokee County, North Carolina, and is 55 years of age…’ 

            ‘Mr. Ledford was an employee in the copper mines at Ducktown, Tenn., where he commenced work at seven years of age, working there until 33 years old…’

            ‘About this time he became imbued with the spirit of the great throng who were trekking westward in the hopes of bettering their fortunes and in accordance, in a two horse wagon, set sails for Colorado in 1878, finally landing in Montana in 1885.’

            ‘While in the west Mr. Ledford discovered how to mine copper by a precipitation process and mines that were considered worthless were made profitable and thus Mr. Ledford was enabled in a short time to make a considerable fortune from his valuable discovery.’

            ‘He returned to Bradley County in 1896, buying a farm of nearly 2,000 acres on the Hiwassee river, which he has improved and it now contains all the improvements of any farm in any agricultural locality.’

            ‘Mr. Ledford is the richest man in Bradley County and owns the finest farm in the state.  Although very wealthy, yet he is of a social disposition and has a good word for everyone.  To know him is to like him.

            ‘Although a republican in politics, he is one of Senator Clark’s warmest friends.  Mr. Clark is the democratic senator from Montana.’

            It will be noticed in the foregoing article, too, that W.L. Ledford was credited with discovering the precipitation process.  When the author inquired of certain older citizens who knew Ledford about why he permitted himself to be given credit for the discovery, they only smiled and replied by saying that ‘he probably did not think it was important.’

            As a matter of fact, ‘Fate’ or ‘Mug’ Ledford was for some twenty-five years in and around the mines at Ducktown before migrating westward.  And during practically all these years there were systems of troughs filled with scrap iron at several mines were copper was being recovered by keeping the iron immersed in water pumped from underground.  It was his foreknowledge of this chemical action that enabled him later to ‘work’ the Anaconda interests for a huge sum of money.  The precipitation process was obviously enough, not first practiced at Butte and neither Captain W.L. Ledford nor his brother Jim discovered in secret.  Jim Ledford’s name is associated by some with the Anaconda episode.  Even as early as 1860, long before Butte was born into the copper kingdom, Eugene Gaussoin, in writing rather caustically of men who did not know all they should about copper mining, said ‘…because I believe every man engaged in copper business knows, or ought to know, that in some localities this process [the old and well-known process of cementation by iron] is the only way of collecting the copper’.  This method has long since been abandoned at Ducktown.”


The Cleveland Herald wrote this in 1895:

            “Mr. W.L. Ledford, who bought the Raht farm on the Tennessee river, was in town Tuesday mixing with old friends.  Mr. Ledford was formerly a citizens of Ducktown but left there nearly twenty years ago and located in Colorado and became a prosperous miner.  He now owns large interests in Colorado and has become what is known to the world as ‘rich’.  He will return to Colorado in a few days and bring his family to Tennessee. –Cleveland Herald.

W.L. Ledford may have retired from the mining industry but he did not settle completely into the quiet life of gentleman farmer.  He was about the age of 50 when he returned to Tennessee.  Not so great an age that he wasn’t still full of adventure.  He continued to involve himself in life & business in Tennessee…doing much business with N.Q. Allen in McMinn County and Burgess Alonzo Edwards and the Mayfields in Bradley County. 


W.L. and Catherine Ledford returned to Bradley County, Tennessee in early 1896 bringing with them, daughter May Helen & Catherine’s son, Ed Erwin.

Soon after his return he purchased  one finest farms in the region.  It just so happens that the 2,000-acre farm was the land once owned by J.E. Raht, whom W.L. had associated with while working the mines in Copper Basin.  It became known as ‘Ledford Island’ & was located near the current location of

B. & B. Marina.  His neighbors were the Sharp’s, Grave’s, Hooper’s, Beeler’s &  Shelton’s.  He also purchased a fine home in downtown Cleveland known as the Tipton House, which is now placed on the Historical Register.

 My father retired to Tennessee, his home state, and bought a vast acreage of fertile valley farming lands in Bradley Co and an Island of 2,000 acres in the Hiwassee River and began the life of a Gentleman Farmer raising fine pure breed short horn cattle, hogs, horses and mules, raising much grain, corn, oats and hay and shipping to Chattanooga, Tennessee by boat on the river the Old John Wheeler…he being situated on the Hiwassee River and this Ledford Island being in the river.  Surrounded on all sides by the river and its slue or arm, he had a palatial farm home near by but out of high water where he enjoyed his family life for years before he died.  He had also a lovely home at Cleveland, Tennessee…”


In 1897 two Wolfe brothers apparently had a grudge against W.L.  They shot him 5 times over a property rental dispute.  The reports of W.L.’s death were greatly exaggerated.  He recovered from the injuries but his ‘death’ was reported in Tennessee newspapers in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, then in Butte, Montana, Omaha, Nebraska and Dallas, Texas….just to name a few.  The “Anaconda Standard, in Butte reported…

” W.L. (Bill) Ledford, the father of copper precipitation in Butte, was shot in Knoxville, Tenn., by two brothers, Leather Wolfe and Joe Wolfe.  In a quarrel over some property that he rented to the Wolfe brothers.  An account of the killing was contained in the Alexandria, Va., Gazette which was received by Meyer Genzberger yesterday.  They met Ledford on the street and fired five bullets into his body.  Ledford was well known in Butte.  He came here 10 years ago from Colorado and ultimately became city marshal.  When he left the marshal’s office he had his ups and downs until he hit on copper precipitation.  He accumulated a fortune from $75,000 to $100,000 out of copper water in a couple of years.  His money was largely invested in land.  He had a knack of getting his name in the newspapers.  From the time he began collecting tin cans to use in the precipitating tanks to the time he was shot down in Knoxville, he was always before the public.  His last in Butte was a lawsuit for $10,000 damages brought by a Salt Lake girl, who charge he had seduced her under promise of marriage.  He adjusted this case without going to trial.  (July, 1897).”  The shooting actually occurred in Bradley County but was incorrectly reported as happening in Knoxville.)


In December, 1899 both W.L. and James were involved in a Butte, MO. legal proceeding.  When Thomas died the undertaker had attempted to over-charge W.L. for the coffin. 

From the Butte News: 

“He Denied All Liability, The Price of a Coffin and Funeral Expenses – The Cause of An Action – The Tennessee Ledford Says He Does Not Propose to Be Robbed by a Butte Undertaker – Has Been in the Business”.  George T. Thomas brought suit against James and W.L. Ledford for $225.  Mr. James Tachell, an undertaker, stated that $225 was the cost of the coffin furnished Thomas Ledford, the deceased son of W.L. Ledford.” 



W.L.’s reply was this:

“I received your undertaking bill from Mr. Ledford.  I instructed my brother to have my son buried, but I did not instruct him to have an undertaker rob me.  I know through my correspondence with a friend in Butte, not a relative,  just what your casket was,  it was a common pine box that cost about $25 and no more.  I also have the minister’s letter who attended the funeral, stating he was buried in a common coffin.  No, sir, you will have to cut your figures just in the middle $87.50 to get any money from me.  I had my daughter, when she died in Helena, brought over to Butte and buried, and the undertaker’s bill, railroad, hearse and hacks, grave, flowers and, in fact, everything first class, and my whole expense was $127.00.  If you remember or will inquire, you will find I was in the Undertaking business in Butte myself, and I will gamble either you or my brother $1,000, and come to Butte myself to inspect the casket, or have it done, that its cost did not exceed $25.  I am willing for you to make a fair profit in your business but my dear sir, I will not allow any man to make me stand and deliver.”

The article goes on to say:

“In a telegram sent after the letter was written Ledford declared that $100 was the limit of what he would pay for the burial of his son…..  he (W.L. Ledford) is also the father of the notorious Jack Ledford (John E.) who was recently convicted in the district court on the charge of attempting to kill his mistress.”


On or about June 21, 1925 at least four newspapers in the Montana area carried very similar articles on the copper mining/precipitation business.  Articles appeared in Butte, Billings, Helena & Missoula.  All gave credit to Jim Ledford for ‘inventing’ the method of precipitation.  All were the same basic article.  The headlines in Billings read: 

“ NEW COPPER for OLD IRON, Turning the junkman’s refuse into the metal everlasting…tin can bill ‘holes out’ in par…copper water drips from troughs on top through pans, thence to settling tanks…cutting down big pieces that go into the drip pans…from a few beds of tin cans – comes a fine crop of copper. 

The story was about the ‘new’ precipitation process being used after W.L. Ledford had lost his three year lease.

Unfortunately, William Lafayette Ledford’s story did not end with his death in 1907.  He had written a specific will in 1905 with a codicil in 1906 just after Pearl died.  When he died a probate began that would go on for many, many years.  His son John E. died in 1928 before ever receiving any of his $12,000 inheritance.  Of his vast estate, his surviving wife & children received only very small amounts.  They were forced to sell the property he left them just to survive.  William Lafayette Ledford is interred in Fort Hill Cemetery in Cleveland, Bradley County, TN. near other members of his family.  Catherine died in 1940 and is interred near May and Foster Wall and her son, Ed Erwin.

 James Edward Ledford remained in Butte, MO. for the remainder of his life.  He died there September 27, 1928.  He and Belle were saloon keepers in Idaho Falls, Idaho in 1900.  By 1910 he is a merchant and living with Belle, Maude and her sons, Ledford and Charles H. Storms, she has another son named Hamilton J. Storms.  By 1920 they are living in Butte.  Jim is age 71 and still working as a merchant.

James and Matilda’s son, Benjamin Franklin Ledford, married Fannie Wilhelmina Hazen.  Wilhelmina was a well recognized portrait painter in southern California.  They were married on August 27, 1877 in San Francisco, CA.  In 1884 Benjamin is working as a clerk in Leadville, Colorado, in 1892-’93 he is listed in the Butte Directory records, living in Mamie, Meaderville and in 1930 he is living in Los Angeles County California.  They had no children.

James’s daughter Myra Ledford was born April 7, 1867.  She married an unknown Hughes then after James’ death married a Broaddus.  She died in Los Angeles County, CA. March 3, 1969.

His son, John E. is the last child he had with Matilda.  We know that he was living in Oklahoma at the time of James death.

True to form for the Ledford brothers, James’s 1928 death was a controversial one.  The Montana Standard wrote about the shooting death of the elderly James Ledford. 

The headline read: “Mystery angles Uncovered in Death of J.E. Ledford Found Shot Through Head….Old Timer Found Dead In Store…Wound Near Back of Skull and No Powder Burns Show , say those investigating Tragedy in Butte…Body Back of Counter…In same place Veteran Business Man Killed (a) Man he said was attempting to rob him a few years ago.”


 Belle Carey/Hamilton/Ledford went to Santa Barbara County, California with her widowed daughter Maude Moore/Storms.  James is interred in Mt. Moriah Cemetery along with W.L.’s children, Ida Ledford/Dean and Thomas Ledford. 


On W.L.’s 1898 Bureau of Pensions application the surviving children are Thomas, Dulcina, John, Julia and May Hellen.

Of W. L.’s  children:

·       Louella we have no trace of

·       John E. (aka Jack) stayed in Butte.  He later went to Goldfield, Nevada to pass away there in September 27, 1928.  He died in a jail cell as a pauper.     

·       Thomas also stayed in Butte and must have continued to work in the mining industry.  He died there May 29, 1899. 

·       Ida married an unknown Dean.  She died in Helena, Montana in 1896 and is buried near Thomas in Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Butte. 

·       Julia returned to Tennessee sometime after W.L. & Catherine.  She married Holt Ledford the son of Nobel Ledford (husband of Dulcina) & George Clayton.  Holt went to Canada and died there.

·       Rebecca Dulcina married Nobel Smith Ledford an attorney from Harlan County, Kentucky and a distant cousin of W.L.  She never remarried & died in 1952.  Nobel went back to Harlan Co., KY.  He died there October 3, 1936.

·       We have no trace of Caroline . 

·       Pearl married Nathan Renslow in Denver, CO.  They returned to Tennessee just after the turn of the century.  She died just after the birth of her son, Holt, in late February or early April, 1906.  Nathan returned to Denver with his family and new wife who was housekeeper for he and Pearl.

·       Ed Erwin, W.L.’s stepson continued to live with his mother, Catherine and is buried alongside her.

·       May Hellen married Nelson Zeigler, divorced.  Later married Dr. Foster Wall.  She is interred at Hamilton Memorial, Chattanooga, TN. beside her mother, Catherine and Edward Erwin.


There is a historical legacy left by these two brothers, W.L. in particular which lies within a family of prominent people….descendents in Tennessee, Montana, California and all over the country.  It is written about on the pages of many newspapers and within a few books.  They made their mark in history and it is a great American Success Story.


(Authors note:  This writer simply cannot conclude this narrative without this little story.....  The descendents of W.L. Ledford have diligently researched and written about him for almost 70 years.  Three generations of Dulcina’s family have worked on his lineage for many years.  Little was known.  They had Dulcina’s wonderful story and several other documents she had saved over the years but, still, there was very limited knowledge of him, his brother and his children.

          A few years ago W.L.’s great, great, great grandson, David Carroll and his Aunt Judy Moore had an accidental discovery. David has a bit of a hobby in attending estate sales.  He and Judy had attended such a one at the old business of Mayfield and Mayfield, attorneys.  They had looked around for quite a while and were about to ‘give up’….that is until Aunt Judy opened an old safe and found reference to William Ledford.  They purchased the entire lot of documents.  What a goldmine for this family!  Letters found were from Joseph T. Stuart & John E. Ledford from Butte written to Burgess Alonzo Edwards and W.L. that have been an invaluable resource for this family’s genealogical research.  They have land deeds, cancelled checks, the mine leases from Butte, receipts and many, many other documents.  A totally unbelievable find.  It’s almost as if W.L & Jim were guiding their hands.)










William Lafayette Ledford Family History by Rebecca Dulcina Ledford, circa 1946, used with permission of owner, Dorris Ledford Prevou.


Ducktown Back in Raht's Time, by R.E. Barclay, 1946, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.




For more reading concerning the local Copper Mining industry read:


Narrative written by

Joyce Gaston Reece, Historian & Genealogist

Etowah, Tennessee

August, 2009


Edited, resourced by & used with permission of:

Mr. David Carroll, Cleveland, Tennessee

Mrs. Dorris Ledford Prevou, Chattanooga, Tennessee



Data from Dorris’s BIG FIND


Evergreen Cemetery


Daniel Ledford, died on Jan 24, 1883 at the age of 7 months setting birth date as mid June 1882, Lot 18, grave #1, no headstone

HEADLINE FROM NEWSPAPER – Pearl A. Ledford, a child 7 mos died on Jan 25, 1883.  This child is not a child (or children) of Mary Jane and WL.  Not if Julia’s birthdate of Ausust 12, 1881 is correct. 

I suspect that the word Daniel was mis-transcribed to the cemetery record.  It is probably Pearl.


Mary Ledford, April 17, 1884; age 37; setting birth year at apx 1847; Lot 39, grave #32, no headstone.  Mary Jane Galloway/Ledford.

Julia born Aug 12, 1881.  No definitive date on Pearls Birth.

Now, if we apply a very short term between Julia and the next child of ten months this would be May, 1882.  It was unlikely that Mary Jane gave birth 10 months after Julia.  If she died in childbirth as Dorris has always heard it will likely be Pearl’s birth probably sometime in April, 1884.  The newspaper article said she had paralysis.  What caused the paralysis is likely a back injury or a spinal disease like polio.


J. Ledford died Aug 22, 1887 age 30, setting birth date at 1857, lot 18, grave #2, no headstone (This isn’t a wife or child of either James or WL.)  Age fits more to be a sibling or cousin or something like this.  Could be NO relative at all.


Mrs. M. Ledford, died July 2, 1882; age 35,  birthdate will be apx. 1847; lot 17, grave #1, no headstone -  This should be Matilda Brown/Ledford, Mrs. James E.